by Lucas Thayer
In a surprise announcement last Thursday, President Beck Taylor declared the establishment of a new $1.5 million endowed professorship for the College of Arts and Sciences at a staged event in Robinson Science Hall. The professorship is a gift from alumnus Dave Myers, ’64, and his wife, Carol Myers, ’65. The chair will be named after Carol Myer’s grandmother, Amy M. Ryan, who was one of the first students to attend Whitworth. Dave Myers also serves on the board of trustees.
The professorship will be awarded “to an outstanding faculty member who embodies Amy Ryan’s love of learning, her skill in writing and her innovative spirit; who values the mainline church and the aspirations of women; and who exhibits dedication to students and compassion for all,” according to a press release.
Thanks to the Myers’ gift, Whitworth now has six endowed professorships on campus. A total of 10 endowed professorships is one of the goals laid forth in Whitworth’s 2021 plan.
The ceremony was announced the previous day in a campus-wide email, although no details were provided as to what would be announced at the ceremony.
Taylor made the announcement from a small stage constructed underneath the stairs of Robinson.
“This professorship is an endearing manifestation of Dave and Carol’s great enthusiasm and love for Whitworth, and it captures so well their passion to equip the institution’s mission in preparing students to honor God, follow Christ and serve humanity,” Taylor said.
Provost Carol Simon took the stage after the announcement, thanking the Myers for their contribution, and explaining the importance of the endowment to the lives of students and faculty on campus.
“The holder of this endowed professorship will carry the name of Amy Ryan and the values that she embodied and lived out and passed on to generations,” Simon said.
Taylor and the Myers then unveiled a mock-up of the plaque that will hang in McEachran Hall in Ryan’s honor.
Carol Myers took the stage after the announcement, and set about telling the audience about her grandmother’s life.
Amy M. Ryan (née Johns) was born in 1878, in Farmington, Iowa. In 1890, the family relocated to Sumner, Wash. When Ryan graduated high school, she wanted to attend the newly established Whitworth College, but worried that she would be unable to do so because her family was unable to pay for the tuition, about $12 for a semester of education.
A compromise was reached with the institution; she would be able to pay for her education in deliveries of hay, milk and eggs produced on her family’s farm. During her time at Whitworth, she served as the editor for the Whitworth College Critic, the campus newspaper.
For one semester in 1895, Ryan was unable to pay tuition, and feared she might not be able to attend Whitworth anymore, Carol Myers said. Whitworth’s president at that time, Rev. Calvin Stewart, walked two miles to Ryan’s farm to tell her that her presence at Whitworth was worth more than the cost of tuition.
Ryan received her teacher’s certification in 1897, ending her college career. One of her greatest regrets was that she was not able to complete her education at Whitworth, Carol Myers said.
Ryan went on to become a poet, a writer, a historian and a Sunday school superintendent for 25 years in Spokane and Sumner.
She also served on the Presbyterian Church’s Board of National Missions and Board of Foreign Missions.
Dave Myers said he was thankful that he and his wife found a way to contribute to the Whitworth community. Whitworth enabled both of them to go places that they could have “never imagined” otherwise, Dave Myers said.
“The endowment supports a university that because of its reformed and ever-reforming heritage, is committed, as we are, to the open, courageous, free-spirited pursuit of truth,” Dave Myers said.
Dave Myers then addressed Taylor directly.
“And one other thing. I got to thinking about that $12 that has never been paid. And then I got to thinking about the magic of compound interest,” Dave Myers said.
At 10 percent interest, compounded quarterly for 119 years comes out to about $1.5 million, Dave Myers said.
After 119 years, Taylor officially settled debt, with interest.